JOHANNESBURG – None of the Proteas players, who are in the country following the recent tour to Sri Lanka, will partake in the T20 Knockout Challenge, which starts at the end of the week.
The logistical challenges created by that tournament’s scheduling and the bio bubble demands for the T20 World Cup, have put Cricket SA and the Proteas management in a bind.
Instead of playing the new T20 Knockout competition, which starts on Friday, the 11 players – including the three in the reserve unit – will rest until the end of the week, and then go into a training camp in Durban. They will depart for the United Arab Emirates on October 2, serve a strict six-day quarantine there and once cleared can start training ahead of the World Cup.
Seven South African players, who are in the World Cup squad, are currently in the UAE, contracted to teams in the Indian Premier League.
“The recommendation was given to us that the players needed a break, and we agreed,” said CSA’s selection convenor Victor Mpitsang.
It means that for the likes of Andile Phehlukwayo and Lizaad Williams, who both among the reserves and last started a T20 International in July, would not have played for three months by the time of South Africa’s opening match in the World Cup against Australia on October 23. In Phehlukwayo’s case he at least has game time in the One-Day side to fall back on, which Williams doesn’t.
Initially when the T20 Knockout was announced it was hoped that players not contracted to the IPL, would get in some match time ahead of the World Cup. However, the T20 KO is taking place over three separate weeks, with teams in four pools. So in the case of Phehlukwayo, who plays for the Dolphins, he would not be able to play because the matches in that Pool Involving the Dolphins are being played on October 8, when Phehlukwayo will already be in Dubai.
Instead, the short training camp in Durban will include two matches, against Invitation teams selected from players in the Western Province, Central Gauteng, Northern Cape and South Western Districts teams, who will complete their Pool A matches this weekend.
In addition the Proteas will also play a couple of warm-up games before the World Cup, after they’ve served their quarantine period in Dubai.
Lungi Ngidi and skipper Temba Bavuma remain the most urgent injury concerns. Ngidi is working to get back to fitness under the watchful eye of former Proteas trainer, Greg King, who is part of the management team at the Chennai Super Kings. The 25 year old fast bowler has not explained why he missed the Proteas tour to Sri Lanka, only citing personal reasons.
Bavuma meanwhile is still on track after undergoing surgery on his fractured right thumb, two weeks ago. Bavuma, who will be assessed at the training camp in Durban, said he hoped to be back in the nets by the time the side heads to the UAE.